Farmers in Ontario Could Get Increased Protection from Animal Rights Trespassers

by John M. Simpson.

On December 2, Bill 156 was introduced in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Canada, entitled the “Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act, 2019.”  The measure, which was introduced by the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and which passed upon first reading, stiffens protections for farmers and animal processing facilities against trespass and other physical property invasions or interference with animal transportation.

As described by the accompanying explanatory note, the bill is intended to

protect farm animals, the food supply, farmers and others from risks that are created when trespassers enter places where farm animals are kept or when persons engage in unauthorized interactions with farm animals.  The risks include the risk of exposing farm animals to disease and stress, as well as the risk of introducing contaminants into the food supply.

Key features of the measure include:

  • Creating animal protection zones which are defined as areas on a farm or animal processing facility in which animals are kept and which are enclosed and marked as such by the owner or occupant.
  • Prohibiting any person from entering in or on an animal protection zone with out the prior consent of the owner or occupant.
  • Prohibiting any interference or interaction with animals in an animal protection zone without the prior consent of the owner or occupant.
  • Prohibiting interference with the transportation of animals by a motor vehicle without the prior consent of the operator.
  • Deeming ineffective implied consent or consent obtained under duress or false pretenses for entering in or on an animal protection zone.
  • Authorizing the owner or occupant of a animal protection zone to effectuate an arrest without warrant of a person who violates the Act and who refuses to comply with a request to leave the premises.
  • For violations of the provisions applicable to animal protection zones, a fine of not more than $15,000 for the first offense and not more than $25,000 for a subsequent offense.
  •  Limited liability of an owner or occupant of an animal protection zone for personal injury or property damage suffered by a trespasser, unless the actions of the owner or occupant were taken with deliberate intent to harm or damage or with willful or reckless disregard for the presence of the trespasser.

For the bill to become law, it must receive three readings in the House and be granted Royal Assent.

The Ontario bill is similar to a measure recently passed by the Parliament of New South Wales in Australia.  That act was in response to multiple recent incidents of animal rights activists coming onto private farm property to protest, “rescue” farm animals or otherwise interfere with operations.